Ayer’s Cliff, Quebec
The shrieks of laughter coming from behind the farmhouse belonged to me.
“Wanna watch me milk a goat?” McGyver asked after dinner with a long time friend and his family, owner’s of an organic lamb farm, which included a few goats, chickens, pigs, a burro and three llama’s, which are in the animal mix to ward off coyotes. It’s a real life petting zoo!
It seems that not only does the “M” in McGyver’s name stand for Michelangelo and MacGyver, it also stands for MacDonald, as in Old MacDonald the farmer.
McGyver and his friend Michael met 27-years-ago through the Canadian-style Peace Corps called Canada World Youth. McGyver’s project included working on a dairy farm in Nova Scotia before traveling to Bolivia.
In the past half dozen years they’ve been out of touch, now we know why. The urbane, fluent in French and English, technology marketing executive has morphed into an eco-farmer, the owner of certified-organic lamb farm, Ferme au Bonheur des Pres, roughly translated to “in the happiness of the meadow.” The farm is indeed in a beautiful meadow, rolling hills and manicured tracts as far as the eye can see.
We arrived on barn cleaning day. Unlike us, we call ourselves Gentleman Truckers, Michael is a real farmer. He works long hours, sunrise-to-sunset and a round the clock if necessary, hard physical work, to provide the Montreal area with organic lamb.
Barn cleaning day is a dance, where heavy machinery, bobcats and tractors with giant scoops do si do with the animals. The lambs, the llamas and the pigs are moved from their corrals to make way for the bobcats and moved back.
To complicate matters, one of the mama pigs was nursing six newborns. The goats were kept in a corral near the house for the barn cleaning. McGyver jumped into the mix, donning mucky boots in the 90+ degree heat. While the owner resettled his animals, McGyver milked the goats. (I jumped in earlier on kitchen duty.)
Out we went, sun dipping below the hills, casting a soft pink across the sky, McGyver with his plastic milk bucket and a green recycling bin to sit on and me, my crimson toes and red Havianas thongs twinkling between the deep green grass. You’re wondering what my Renaissance man is doing with a sushi-eating, frappaccino-swilling, Chanel-wearing, crimson-toed Indoor Girl but that’s another story.
The wire pen held four goats, two mama’s to be milked – the mama pigs were waiting for this treat – the future farm buck and a baby goat.
McGyver grabbed the first Mama goat, sat on the shiny bin preparing to milk. The white billy goat, about the size of a seven-year-old boy but with four-inch, serrated horns as thick as a bratwurst, kicked the milk bucket in a clumsy jig trying to engage McGyver in his hijinx. He stood back, lifted up his front hooves and dropped them onto McGyver’s back, the hooves digging into his shirt collar. The recycling bin was actually helping Billy as he climbed the bin to make another attempt of wrapping his hooves around McGyver. Every time, McGyver pushed him away, Billy came back, exhibiting every tendency of a seven-year-old determined to play. I howled. My husband’s arms flailing, protecting his bucket of milk, hanging onto Mama and fending off Billy.
Billy tried nuzzling McGyver’s neck and nipping at his belt. Every time, McGyver pushed Billy away, Mama backed off and ran to the opposite side of the corral.
Finally I had to run up to the barn and grab the leash and hold Billy just out of reaching distance to McGyver. Once Billy was tethered, the baby goat found her opening, again trying to walk up McGyver’s back. McGyver abandoned the recycling bin and the baby goat climbed up and danced, slipping off, kicking her four hooves to the sky. She trained her attention again to McGyver, but she was much easier to swat away and McGyver was finally able to milk both goats, keep the bucket upright and exit the corral.
The farmer’s wife is a fantastic cook, along with the roasted organic lamb, tender, sweet flesh, we enjoyed a spinach and grated carrot salad and chilled avocado soup with fresh mint and coriander.
The entire week was back to nature. It started in Ontario’s Cottage Country, where another friend of McGyver’s from his Canada World Youth days rented a cabin at Palmerston Lake, near Ompah with her family. We enjoyed a canoe trip across the lake, playing hide and seek with the loons and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows over a crackling fire.
The next stop, Lac Poisson Blanc, an hour north of Ottawa, Canada’s capital, in Quebec, where other friends – essential in life with no fixed address, lots of friends with space – have cornered the market on the wilderness experience.
The cabin sits on a small island, a ten minute boat ride from shore. In the spring the water is up to the docks, this year the lake’s water level is six feet lower, revealing an amazing beach. On one side of the cabin is a deck with twin Adirondack chairs looking directly across to pristine, virgin, old growth forest. There are, we’re told, only eight cabins on this end of the lake, the rest is Crown Land, wilderness owned by the government.
A mini, late-summer heat wave made it all the more enjoyable – heat wave or not, Canadian lake water is COLD. We braved the frigid temperatures, the other Canadians assuring us the water was at least 72 degrees, but we didn’t believe them.
But all good things end. Next stop is Cummins, the diesel engine shop where we pick up our truck, it’s been in the truck hospital with the specialist this time. We’ll pay another gasp-inspiring bill and hope our missing boost was found.
More on that next.